Where are we headed?
Upon a careful review of events over the past year, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the groundwork is being laid for a more openly liberal agenda being pushed within the Church of Ireland. There has been a drift towards this agenda over the past number of years but it would appear that a more upfront assault is now taking place. Archbishop Neill in his interview with ‘Hot Press’ magazine and Archbishop Harper in his sermon at Clonmacnoise showed that they are wedded firmly to the liberal revisionist agenda. Added to this the decision of Bishop Jackson (Clogher) to accept an invitation to speak, before Lambeth 2008, at the Modern Churchpeople’s Union conference alongside Bishop Gene Robinson (the openly gay bishop whose consecration has brought the Anglican Communion to a crisis point) shows that more of our bishops are stating their intention to follow the liberal agenda.
Many people, including Canon Ken Kearon, have praised the Church of Ireland as a model of tolerance and ‘unity within diversity’ (the pet buzz phrase of the liberal revisionist agenda), but is that really true? Archbishop Harper’s sermon was far from tolerant or accepting of those who would hold to the historically orthodox view of Scripture. How does the Archbishop of Armagh now view the evangelical clergy of his diocese and the wider church? Archbishop Neill was hazy, to say the least, on fundamental Christian doctrines. Where do those who are clear on such doctrinal issues as salvation, heaven and hell now stand with the Archbishop of Dublin? Bishop Jackson could not be clearer in nailing his colours to the mast on the issue of human sexuality, which is either brave or foolish, considering the motion passed by his diocesan synod on this issue. Reading what was said in response to the questions asked by the Church of Ireland Gazette concerning Lambeth 2008 it would appear that some Bishops wish to keep their options open. Looking at those who gave such a response there would seem to be two camps. Some bishops hint they may not attend Lambeth 2008 if ECUSA fails to comply with the request of the Primates, whilst others may not attend if ‘everyone’ (which means ECUSA in general and Bishop Robinson specifically) is not at the table. A further twist is added to the responses with the possibility that one of those questioned may have been hinting at his possible retirement before Lambeth 2008.
It would also appear that the collegiality of the House of Bishops is now a thing of the past. While those of a more evangelical persuasion have remained largely silent the liberal revisionist bishops have set the agenda and made the media headlines. Bishop Miller’s article was a welcome and timely exception. We would recommend that it is widely read and we pray that he continues to give a strong biblical lead to his diocese and the wider church.
Reform Ireland believes that in the year ahead the liberal revisionist agenda will be promoted further and with more vigour. We believe that if Dail Eireann passes ‘civil partnership’ legislation, as presently exists in the UK, there will be a move to bring legislation before General Synod to allow for the blessing of ‘same-sex’ relationships. Reform Ireland believes that it is naïve to believe that such legislation would be defeated within General Synod. In fact we believe that such legislation may well be passed. There are those within the clergy who openly advocate such legislation being brought before Synod and describe the move to accept ‘same-sex’ relationships as ‘the new Reformation.’ Reform Ireland are aware that the blessing of such a relationship has taken place in the past. We are also aware that consideration must now be given as to the financial implications of the ‘civil partnerships’ legislation and pension rights of clergy and their ‘registered partner.’ We believe that the Church of Ireland is further down the road on ‘civil partnerships’ than many would care to believe or acknowledge.
Reform Ireland believes that it is important that clergy, congregations, Select Vestry, and Synod representatives (at both diocesan and national level) make it clear where they stand in relation to the liberal revisionist drift/agenda within the Church of Ireland. It is important that congregational members pray for their clergy and also encourage their clergy to remain faithful to the clear teaching of Scripture. Select Vestries are encouraged to inform their diocesan bishop of where they stand on this issue and to challenge him to remain faithful to the plain teaching of Scripture. Reform Ireland calls on all congregations to play an active role in holding the Church of Ireland and its leadership to the biblically orthodox faith set forth in Holy Scripture, the BCP, the Preamble and Declaration and the 39 Articles.
Unfortunately for too long many clergy and congregations have concentrated solely on their parish and left diocesan and general synod issues to others. The result has been a church that has slowly drifted and in some cases deliberately moved away from Scriptural teaching. Such inward looking attitudes have no place at this time. We do not wish to be alarmist but we believe that the next 12-18 months are a vital period in the life of our Church and call on all to be in fervent prayer before God for the very heart of the Church of Ireland. We ask that church members take courage and challenge their parochial and diocesan clergy as to where they stand on the fundamentals of the faith and not just on the ‘human sexuality issue.’ Some lay people may be shocked at the answers they receive from their parochial clergy and diocesan bishop. Reform Ireland has no desire to cause division, or schism, within the Church of Ireland but we seek to be faithful, and call others to be faithful, to the Word of God. In so doing we find ourselves, regrettably, at this point in history having to divide from those who will not teach what Scripture teaches. We pray that the Church of Ireland will remain faithful to God’s Word and by His Spirit win this island for Christ.
20th Sep 2007